A year or so ago a friend who’d noticed how much weight I’d lost asked me how I did it. I told her, “Very Low Carb.” Like virtually everyone, she admitted she didn’t have a clue about the fine points of what a carbohydrate is and asked for a little guidance. Totally unaware of how much travail it would cause us both, I unwittingly jumped at the opportunity to mentor her…and we succeeded.
I saw her at a garden party last summer. When she asked if I had noticed how much weight she’d lost, I replied, “No, but I noticed how good you look in that dress.” She smiled. “I’ve lost 26 pounds, 1 dress size,” she said. “It’s a size 10.” “I would like to lose another couple of pounds,” she continued, “so a fitted dress would be a little more comfortable through the waist. I’m not shooting for a size 8” though,” she chuckled…which brings me to the subject of this post: MODERATION.
I hate the concept of moderation. Too often it is used as an excuse by those who reject a more radical lifestyle change. “Moderation” is an ideology in itself, but it’s often used as a response to importunate demands for radical change. Just because I lost over 180 pounds and kept most of it off is no reason to think that is the only way to lose weight. This is also true if 1) you don’t need to or want to lose so much weight and 2) you are cut from a “different cloth,” as my friend and perhaps the majority of the overweight people in this nation are.
My friend taught me this lesson. She of course is happy that she lost 26 pounds. She would be happier still if she lost another 6 or 7, which she now knows how to do. In her case, 26 pounds was over 20% of her starting weight, so that IS a singular achievement. Another 6 or 7 pounds would be 5% more of her current weight!
Why the opportunity to mentor my friend was so vexatious is that, to adopt a MODERATE approach to eating LOW CARB (rather than the extreme approach of VERY LOW CARB that I used), required a lot of education and a lot of negotiation. My friend leads a very intense, edgy lifestyle, constantly creating lots of “on the edge” situations as part of her work as a novelist. As a result, she’s inured to living somewhat “on the edge” herself.
A lifestyle that is fraught with anxiety and risk-taking is bound to be a strain on one’s psyche. For balance, such a lifestyle likewise requires rational thinking and counter measures to deal with the day-to-day exigencies. And to deal with this lifestyle, eating becomes both a driver and a crutch. Comfort food is an integral part of her lifestyle, and snacks are an integral part of her eating pattern. Therein lay the challenge.
Snacking is antithetical to a sound Low Carb Eating Plan, but giving snacks up was off the table – not negotiable! It was integral to her modus operendi. Therefore, all that remained was the Low Carb part. Beyond that, the education was pretty simple: She told me what she ate, and I gave her a basic education about which things she ate were the bad choices: both the “complex” carb type and the simple sugars. And that was it!
I’ve always scoffed at the concept of negotiating with a patient as the ADA’s clinical practice guidelines counsel. But in this case, I learned first-hand with my “patient” – with snacking being a part of her working lifestyle, which I totally understood and had to accept – a workaround would be necessary. And it was.
It took dozens of emails over several weeks, including countless recitations of the same principles to refute the same “scientific” articles she sent me which advocated for another Way of Eating or against the Low Carb way. But eventually we modified her “Eating Plan” sufficiently to where she started to see a difference on the scale.The back and forth ended one day when I gave up on repeatedly defending the science of Low Carb eating. We didn’t “talk” for months afterwards, so I was delighted when we met at the garden party and she asked me if I had noticed her weight loss. That’s when I said, “No, but I did notice how good you look in that dress.” I think we both felt pretty good about that. I think her doctor did too. Of course, I would like to see her go for that size 8 dress. She knows how now and could get there by simply going back and doing “more of the same.”
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